Why Grammar Nazis Are the Worst

Why Grammar Nazis Are the Worst

[lead centered=”yes”]Your angry tweet about a typo was spelled perfectly and had impeccable grammar, but unfortunately you’re an idiot.[/lead]

I’ve said in the past that blog comments are the quarters in a blogger’s tip jar, but leaving a comment about a typo or grammar is like tipping your waiter with a booger.

Someone who truly cares about grammar, spelling, and human beings in general will email the blogger privately when they spot an error. This is the type of person who wants to help a writer avoid embarrassing themselves, not the type of bully who wants to be the one to do the embarrassing.

Have you ever been really proud of something? Have you then ever had someone pick it apart until you no longer felt worthy of ever feeling proud? Imagine if they did that on a soap box with a microphone.

Imagine hitting a home run and then getting criticized that you didn’t hold the bat correctly. You knocked the ball out of the park, but your form wasn’t exactly perfect. Or, you’ve raised three great kids of whom you’re endlessly proud, but your mother-in-law makes a snide comment about how unkempt your house is, or that your kids need lessons in manners, or they need to dress better, or anything else.

There’s this awful trend on the web that encourages people to nitpick spelling and grammar. Calling yourself a “grammar nazi” has become a badge of honor. I prefer to call them bullies, which is what they are.

Does a typo equal stupid?

No, stupid equals stupid. A bad blog post will be a bad blog post regardless of typos, but grammar nazis say they won’t waste a moment of their precious time reading on if they spot one, even if the blog post is good. But they will waste their time leaving a nasty comment. That sounds pretty stupid to me.

Surely they know that there’s an enormous population of people on this earth with disorders that make it exceedingly difficult for them to spell correctly.

Saying that someone who has trouble spelling shouldn’t be allowed to blog or write or publish a book is ignorant and petty. Do they also think mentally handicapped people should be banned from having normal jobs? Do they think that people with physical deformities shouldn’t be allowed on television? For crying out loud, if you can’t do something perfectly, don’t do it at all, right?

Spellcheck exists, but it’s not perfect. Grammarly exists, and I use it every day, but it’s also far from perfect. And someone who struggles with spelling has to work three times as hard to write than the rest of us. Clearly, our ideas are much better than theirs, because spelling is everything.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a notoriously bad speller. In fact, he was such a bad speller that he addressed his good friend Ernest Hemingway in letters as “Earnest Hemminway.” And speaking of Ernest Hemingway, he was famous for bad spelling also. Jane Austen, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci – they were all godawful with spelling and grammar, yet we don’t consider them inferior.

Now, if one grasps all of this and can recognize that someone with a weakness or disability is their equal and should be allowed to grace the web with their presence, then why in the world would you shame someone for making a typo?

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If they really are so outraged, they can blame the editor. And if they’re honestly offended over a typo in someone’s personal recipe blog, they should probably stop using the Internet and start finding their zen.

I know the difference between their, they’re, and there, but sometimes my hands process it differently on my keyboard, and no spellcheck will ever pick it up. I’ve spelled grammar as “grammer” four times so far in this post even though I know exactly how to spell it. When you write professionally, your hands are sometimes faster than your brain. When you blog several times a day, or even once a day, you’ll never be perfect.

What’s especially awful about grammar nazis is that the worst ones don’t write for a living. The ones that do understand that typos happen, and that even people with English degrees from Harvard will make an error here and there, especially those without editors. Have you ever stared at something for hours and then tried to edit?

If you feel so compelled to tell the writer and Tweet and post on Facebook that you “stopped reading after the first grammar error,” then you’re the one with the problem. You have already spent too much time being angry about something that does not affect you. If you were such a brilliant grammar snob, then you’d be an editor. Are you?

And let’s not forget how easy it is find mistakes as a fresh reader. I’m both a blogger, and I’m also an editor. I don’t edit my own work, because nobody should. When I edit someone else’s work, I know how easy I have it. All I have to do is see what can make it better. The writer had to come up with the idea, break it down, research it, and formulate it into a cohesive story. I’m just over here polishing it up.

By the way, I didn’t even proof this article, and I feel just awful about it.

When you spot a typo or grammar error, take a deep breath and either keep reading or don’t. Intelligent ideas have nothing to do with a properly placed apostrophe.

Like this post? We’re hiring constructive, non-jerky editing types.

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  • James

    I’m hanging up my grammar nazi hat right now. You did an excellent job at speaking about this in a way that I’ve never thought about before. For a second I thought maybe you shouldn’t hate on grammar nazis when you sell blog services, but that was a very cute plug for hiring at the end. Congrats on growing! Been following you guys for a while and you seem to really have your hearts in the right place when it comes to marketing. Bravo.

  • Mary Raymond

    Well said.

  • Randy Shackleford

    i love you! ^^^

  • Jonny

    Personally, if I post something that has grammatical errors or typos, I want people to point out if I’ve made any mistakes, so I can correct them. For one, it shows they’ve actually read it. Being rude and abusive is another thing: obviously a person’s bad spelling or grammar says very little about them as an individual (though if you know it’s poor, why wouldn’t you use a spellchecker?) If you knowingly make a mistake when you speak, you correct yourself. Why? Because then the person you’re talking to has a better chance of understanding what you mean. I don’t see why writing should be any different. One reason to speak clearly is because you respect your listener: you actually CARE whether or not they understand. Likewise with writing. As for taking pride in something, how can you take pride in something you know might have mistakes in it? If someone points out your mistakes, you can correct them, then you can take more pride in it. If taking pride is really the point at all: is that why you write something? To feel pleased with yourself? If so, why post it for anyone else to read?

    • http://www.buzzfarmers.com/ @amaaanda

      Hi Jonny, I agree with you, I’m referring more to the abuse that I see bloggers get around the Internet. They write something really beautiful or impactful and the first ten comments point out an apostrophe in the wrong place. That sort of thing silences people that otherwise have great ideas and things to share, and I think that’s just rotten. Blogs are for everybody, and spellcheck is as imperfect as humans. :)

  • CobraCatcher

    The only glaring mistake I really noticed was a forgotten word in the sentence, “And let’s not forget how easy it is ‘TO’ find mistakes as a fresh reader.” My only question is, was it necessary to add the word ‘also’ when stating you are both a blogger and ‘also’ an editor? I realize you did not proof this specific article as a point that just because one does not simply write with proper spelling and grammar at all times does not mean that they are unintelligent or uneducated (or poorly educated) and I know how difficult it is to hand over your work without proofreading it first because it feels quite embarrassing when getting your work back with a bunch of edits on some simple mistakes. Like you said, a lot of people write faster than they are thinking and that is how mistakes are made so easily, just as I had pointed out that the word ‘also’ was unnecessary in that sentence, but I think it is safe to say you were writing faster than what you were thinking. I’ve been known to correct people in the past, mostly about spelling and less about grammar because I find it insanely annoying when people write things like “should/could/would OF instead of HAVE. I think THAT should be a fairly simple one to understand the differences between the words ‘of’ and ‘have’, which are two different words with different meanings. People using words improperly will always be bothersome to me, especially when those people are trying to reply to another person’s comment by putting their ideas down and not even being able to use the proper words in their arguement.

  • SartrewasaMoron

    Hey Amanda, thanks for this. Another reason that people may make grammatical/spelling errors is their personality type. I am a Myers Briggs INTP. There are no grammar police INTPs, because we are concerned with concepts and ideas and not little nitpicking details that are meaningless and don’t affect the overall communication. And you are correct, it’s because when someone lays out an elegant concept or insightful synthesis and someone’s only comment is “it’s they’re, not there”, INTPs write them off now and forever as a truly stupid person, clueless, hopeless and eternally useless. To be honest once you’ve pulled a grammar nazi move on someone with actual intelligence, there is really nothing that you can say or do forever after that will be able to convince them that you are NOT inferior and stupid. :) For real though. :)

  • kiwi-ian

    Interesting that you included Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci as bad spellers but otherwise intelligent. It just goes to prove that English is NOT the only language with problems!

    Learning a foreign language is a quick way to see that in fact English grammar is almost ridiculously easy. French has 4 ways of saying “the”, German has 6. English has 2 (including “the” pronounced thee before a vowel).